You’ve been tasked with writing content for the company website. Before you get all bent out of shape that this responsibility fell to you and not Steve’s assistant in marketing, take a deep breath. As a professional writer, I can give you one piece of advice:
Get other people to tell the story for you.
Even world-famous authors use this strategy because everyone runs out of experiences worth talking about eventually. Remember: you’re not alone in creating content for your website.
Talk to the Right People in Your Company
Your company is smarter than you think it is if you give your coworkers a chance to talk about it.
- Talking to coworkers is the easiest way to generate good content. You know them, they’re nearby, and you probably talk to them every day. This method just focuses your conversation a bit more.
- People like feeling that they have an influence, especially at their jobs. Once you’ve written about your conversation, you have someone who will want to read your content, maybe even share it.
- People may be too busy with work to talk to you. You’re going to have to hassle people you interact with on a daily basis, which can lead to some tension in the workplace.
- After you interview them, you still have to write.
However, you’ll have to write less original work if you take good notes or bring a tape recorder to your interviews. Whenever they say something in an interesting, unique, or entertaining way, reference it in your writing. These quotes are priceless in making your content stand out from the herd.
In addition, don’t just start talking to whoever walks by your desk. To save the time and to get the most quality content out of your interviews, here’s a quick rundown of the best people to interview:
The Head Honcho
Talking to the owner or CEO of your company can yield some emotionally-charged material to use in your content. These people have more investment in your company than anyone else. If you’re fortunate enough to talk to the person who started the company, you can get the history of the place first hand.
Sample Questions for the Head Honcho:
Most of these questions fall into the “Origin Story” category. People will want to read this content because it gives your company a face, someone they can recognize and relate their qualities to your company (think Steve Jobs).
- Why did you get into this industry?
- What was everything like when you first started your company?
- How have you changed as a person and business owner since you started?
- Is the company everything you wanted it to be?
- What was the hardest thing you ever had to overcome as the owner of a company?
The Marketing Department
If you’re in the marketing department, feel free to skip this step (just make sure you’re using any marketing resources—slide show presentations, brochures, etc.—already at your disposal.)
If not, talking to your company’s marketers will help you set the content’s tone by fully understanding your company’s brand and goals.
Sample Questions for the Marketing Department
Content written around these questions will give customers a better feel for what makes your company unique among competitors.
- In your own words, paraphrase our company’s mission statement
- What problems are we solving with our service/product? How are we solving them?
- If you were to meet an embodiment of our company in a bar, what would they be like?
- What existing materials—slide show presentations, ads, brochures—do you have that I can repurpose as content on our website?
- Who are our competitors? What are they doing right?
- How are we better than our competitors?
The Sales Reps/Whoever is Talking to Your Customers
While your company’s owner and marketing department are valuable resources, they can be a bit removed from what actually goes on with the average customer. Sales representatives are a great resource for understanding business-to-customer relations.
Sample Questions for Sales Reps
These questions often yield great content because their problem-solution-result arcs give your stories a beginning, middle, and an end.
- What are your challenges when selling our product/service to a new customer?
- How do you retain customers for new purchases?
- What sales tactics work best for you?
- Are you frequently asked any particular questions? How do you answer them?
- Do you have any interesting stories about a customer’s problem and your solution?
Your potential customers are your goal keepers: The people who tell you if what you’re doing actually works. In order for your company to make a good impression on the public, you need to engage with them emotionally. While some of these questions may feel off topic, they’re a great way to create useful metaphors about your business that your customers will understand.
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What’s your family like? Are you married? Do you have kids? Tell me about them.
Become a Curator of Original Content
Guest blogging is when people not currently employed by your company write content for your website. Keep in mind that guest bloggers are just a supplement to your own work, especially if they’re working for free (which, unless you’re also writing blogs for their site, is rare).
- If you can pay them, you’re more likely to collect a steady stream of quality content from reputable sources.
- Your content will be richer when you collect many different voices and perspectives.
- Guest bloggers already have a name for themselves, so associating your company with them will look good to the public.
- Guest bloggers are often proud of the content they write, and are more likely to share and send you quality links.
- These people are already writers, so they’re more likely to have a grasp on grammar and syntax even if you don’t.
- This method requires you to convince other people to write for you.
- Most guest bloggers will see this as freelance work, a chance to pick up a little money on the side of their regular job. That means your website is not their first priority.
- You still have to be a guiding light to guest bloggers, coordinate with multiple people, and edit their work (sadly, not all writers are good with grammar).
What to Look for in a Guest Blogger
Not every writer is right for your company’s website. When selecting guest bloggers to seduce, pay close attention to their:
- Relevance: Does their expertise relate to your business?
- Influence: Are they a reputable source of information? Are their followers people you would like to attract to your business?
- Style: Is their work engaging or entertaining? Does their tone stay in line with your company’s standards?
If you can honestly answer “Yes” to these questions, then they may be a suitable guest blogger for your company.
Outsource to an Agency
When you can’t, don’t want to, or don’t have time to write, you can always pay people to write for you.
- Agencies can do as much or as little as you need them to do.
- They have tons of experience, so they’re chock-full of good content strategies and advice
- You need to convince your boss that hiring an agency is a better idea than you writing for them with your current salary.
What to Look for in a Content Marketing Agency
There are some scam agencies out there, and even the well meaning ones can end up tanking your brand if they don’t know what they’re doing. You can spot a great content marketing agency if they take pride in:
- Telling good stories. Storytelling in the foundation of all online content.
- Asking the right questions. A good place to start is whether or not they asked a variation of the questions listed above.
- They want to get to know you, your interests, your company, and your customers. If they spend all their time talking at you, they may take your company and customers for granted.
- Understanding your business goals. You want to make sure that the content they write will help your company get what they want. Therefore even when they take a new direction that you don’t fully understand, you’re sure they have your best interest.
- Are highly recommended by their current clients. Second opinions are always good.
- Mixing things up. They’re adventurous. They’re keen to look at the same subject in many different lights to get the most out of it. They are always on the cutting edge of what works in the online marketing world.
- Knowing their grammar. They’ll catch their own mistakes so you don’t have to.
Hang in There
Regardless of what resources you and your company choose to use, don’t give up on creating content altogether. Content marketing is a difficult but rewarding strategy that can yield a better public image, more user engagement, and more loyal customers for your business.